Analysts on the Tigray War – Rashid Abdi

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“There is a clear link between the missing Somali youths, the secret training camps and the Ethiopia-Eritrea-Somalia cooperation,” said renowned analyst Rashid Abdi. Three Horn experts in Africa agree that long before the war in Ethiopia, a military alliance existed between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and that Somalia eventually joined.

Rashid Abdi is the Horn of Africa analyst and security policy expert, now associated with the Sahan Group think tank in Nairobi. He was previously a key analyst in the International Crisis Group.

The secret training of Somali youths in Eritrean training camps, which Bistandsaktuelt mentioned this week, [See below] has shed new light on what analysts believe was a military alliance between the three countries. They also agree that Eritrean dictator Isaias – who was known to hate the TPLF leadership in Tigray – played a key role behind the scenes many months before the war in northern Ethiopia began.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared war on November 4, 2020. It came hours after Tigray forces carried out a pre-emptive strike and took control of several bases inside Tigray belonging to the government army. Several soldiers were killed.

“TPLF started the war”

“TPLF started the war”, has since become Ethiopia’s official explanation. Others have believed that the war started after a long escalation and increased tension between the parties.

The war cooperation between Ethiopia and Eritrea was revealed early on by international media. Despite this, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abyi Ahmed denied for several months that Eritrea was participating in the war. It was not until March 23, 2021, that the Peace Prize winner made a half-hearted admission of the relationship. By then, the media and human rights organizations had long ago linked the Eritreans to some of the most brutal abuses during the war, including the giant massacre in the holy city of Axum.

Already two years earlier, in March 2019, the first contingent of Somali young boys was sent from the airport in Mogadishu to Eritrea, under extreme secrecy.

Soldiers from the Ethiopian Amhara region were also welcomed by Eritrean dictator Isaias Afwerki. They received military training in Eritrean camps several months before the war broke out, while military transport planes were sent from Ethiopia to Eritrea in the dead of night, the New York Times has determined.

A clear link

Rashid Abdi, who has a background from the International Crisis Group and is an expert on security policy, was not even surprised by the news of the secret training of several thousand Somalis in Eritrea, he says.

– Even though the military part of this cooperation is kept secret, more than enough information has emerged – from various sources – to be able to establish that there is a defense pact. It is also, of course, impossible to carry out such a complicated and extensive operation as sending several thousand Somalis to Eritrea without an agreement in advance, he says by phone from Nairobi.

The analyst believes that Somalia’s connection to the military alliance between Ethiopia and Eritrea was clarified in the first quarter of 2019. – Tigray and the joint fight against TPLF had long been a central theme in the planning, he says and points out that there were a number of meetings between the three heads of state since the middle of the year in 2018.

According to Rashid Abdi, who is from Somalia himself, the case of the Eritrean military camps and the many rumors and news reports about participation in the Tigray war have led to strong reactions among many Somalis, both at the grassroots and in political circles.

Unusual and unconstitutional

– This is a very unusual operation. Sending Somalis for military training abroad basically requires the approval of parliament. It is a requirement of Somalia’s constitution. When it has not happened, it is also by definition illegal, says Rashid Abdi.

The former African Horn analyst for the International Crisis Group was among those who publicly warned that the Tigray War came several days before it broke out in November 2020. Today, Rashid Abdi is chief analyst for the Sahan Group and affiliated with the East African Rift Valley Institute in Nairobi. .

– I’m not smarter than others or a prophet, but I was positioned so that I regularly received credible information about troop movements. Ethiopian troops in Ogaden were suddenly reallocated, there was artillery fire from the Eritrean side as an incipient provocation against Tigray, along Tigray’s borders in the north, west and south there was a clear military escalation. Even diplomats in Nairobi saw the war coming, says Rashid Abdi.

However, the warnings from the ICG and others about an impending war were not taken seriously by the international community.

Two possible interpretations

– There are two possible interpretations of the Somalia recruits’ contribution to the Tigray war, says Africa’s Horn expert and professor Kjetil Tronvoll at Oslo New University College.

One is that the recruits were trained with a view to another purpose, but that they were then reallocated when the war suddenly broke out. In that case, it is natural to think that this was a decision in which Eritrean dictator Isaias Afwerki was very central. He is known as a very skilled and influential power player in the Horn of Africa, who would like to be the emperor of the Horn of Africa, and who will help create chaos in Ethiopia. The second interpretation is that this had already been agreed at a much earlier stage between the three heads of state, that it was a three-country alliance against Tigray and that this was Farmaajo’s contribution within the mutual military pact between the countries. For the Somali president, this was a way to show loyalty to Ethiopia. Mogadishu is in practice subordinate to Addis Ababa both in terms of security and finances. In the Somali debate, it is a common interpretation, says Tronvoll.

Not on the radar

– When did the regional leadership of Tigray – the TPLF leaders – know that there were three countries involved in military cooperation, as you have perceived it?

– The TPLF leadership always knew that Eritrea had an agreement with Ethiopia on military cooperation. They became aware of this already during the peace process between the two countries in 2018, where they themselves were excluded from influence. They initially viewed the reopening of the border between Tigray and Eritrea positively, but when Isaiah closed the border again on 31 December 2018, it became clear to them that the dictator of Eritrea had completely different motives than peace.

– Did they also know about Somalia’s military contribution?

– The Somalia force was never mentioned to me in conversations I had with TPLF spokesmen during this period. It was obviously not on the radar at the time.

Depending on Ethiopia

The Norwegian Somalia expert, professor at NMBU Stig Jarle Hansen, is also sure that a military alliance between the three countries exists and has existed. He considers Eritrea and Ethiopia to be the two strongest partners in the alliance, while Somalia is far weaker.

– Security cooperation between Somalia and Ethiopia has existed for a long time, both before and during Abiy’s reign in Ethiopia. This has benefited Farmajo during his presidency. He is dependent on Abiy Ahmed in Ethiopia to secure his grip on power, Hansen says.

The professor, who has been researching Somalia for a number of years, says that Ethiopian forces have on several occasions assisted the Somali central government. The purpose has been to exert pressure on Farmajo’s political opponents and to influence electoral processes, including in southwestern Somalia.

He considers it natural that co-operation between the three countries has also included security and mutual military contributions.

Everyone is against strong regions

– The three heads of state have something in common – all are strongly against federalism and want a strong central power at the expense of the regions. It is regional forces that are challenging their power. For Abiy Ahmed and Isaias Afwerki, the TPLF in Tigray is the biggest threat in the fight to stay in power, Hansen says.

He is well aware of the rumors and media coverage of Somali soldiers in the Tigray War. The United States and the UN Special Rapporteur on Somalia and Eritrea have also reported on this.

– This has been well covered in Somali media, and there have been some hateful feelings against it. Many Somalis have a difficult relationship with Ethiopia, due to various forms of Ethiopian interference in Somali internal relations. It has to do both with events in recent years and in historical circumstances. When young Somalis have to sacrifice their lives in a war, used as useful tools for the Ethiopian central power, it is considered treason, Hansen says.

It was an arms race

Kjetil Tronvoll, who also predicted the outbreak of war long before it happened, points out that the military alliance building, in the wake of the peace agreement between Abiy and Afwerki, was just one of several signs of an impending war in Ethiopia. Both parties – both the TPLF and the government – felt insecure about the other party, feared a war and started an rearmament to secure their own borders and their own power and influence.

Already in 2015-2016, there were signs that the old governing coalition, based on a long-standing fragile balance of power between different regions, was disintegrating. It became clearer and clearer that this could explode in a war. Various regions – Amhara, Oromia and Tigray – began to prepare. It was an arms race, where everyone was insecure, says Tronvoll.

The tripartite agreement

(fact box)

* The tripartite agreement between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia is a cooperation agreement signed on 5 September 2018. The agreement was officially about peace, trade, culture and social and economic development. The agreement was signed in the Ethiopian Amhara region. This happened in the wake of a change of power in Ethiopia and a subsequent peace agreement between the two former enemies Eritrea and Ethiopia.

* A new tripartite meeting was held in Ethiopia’s Amhara region in November 2018.

* On 27 January 2020, another three-party meeting was held in the Eritrean capital Asmara. According to the Ethiopian broadcaster Fana, the meeting adopted an action plan focusing on “peace, stability, security and economic and social development” and a “security” component with the aim of combating and neutralizing (…) terrorism, arms and human trafficking and drug trafficking.

* Prior to and between the meetings, there had been a number of bilateral meetings. Among other things, Abiy visited an Eritrean military base in July 2020. Farmajo visited Asmara on October 4, 2020, while Isaias visited the Ethiopian air base in Bishoftu on 14-15. October 2020.

* Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared war on the Tigray region on November 4, 2020. It came hours after Tigray forces first launched an attack on several federal military bases inside the Tigray region. In the months before, there had been a growing tension between the parties. Eritrean soldiers participated in the Ethiopian government forces and have been accused of aggravated assault on civilians. Various sources in Ethiopia and Somalia claim that forcibly recruited Somali soldiers wearing Eritrean uniforms were also involved in the Tigray offensive during the first phase of the war.

Source: Wikipedia / Ethiopia Insight / Eritrea Hub / Fana / Amnesty International


“Omar” was promised a golden job in Qatar, ended up as a soldier in Eritrea

“Omar” (26) was one of many Somali young boys who were promised well-paid jobs as guards ahead of the World Cup in Qatar. That was a lie. The boys were instead abducted to Eritrea and forced into military training. Many ended their lives in the Tigray War, a former intelligence chief believes.

By Gunnar Zachrisen

– In a few days I will leave, he said optimistically. That was the last I heard from him. It has now been almost three years.

It is the cousin of “Omar”, one of several thousand missing young boys, who tells this. The cousin is the only one who dares to stand up when a Somali freelance reporter makes contact, on behalf of Bistandsaktuelt. Eight other parents, among them people who have previously appeared in the media, have said “no”, referring to “fear” and “threats”.

“Omar” is one of many young Somali men who were promised a lucrative job abroad, but ended up in one of several military training camps in Eritrea. And has been kept there for several years. A spokesman for the Somali authorities has admitted that there was talk of training 5,000 recruits, a former intelligence chief believes the missing young boys are at least twice as many.

– It’s desperate. I fear that many will be detained or killed because they are living testimony to what they have seen during the Tigray war, he says to Bistandsaktuelt.

The former deputy head of the Somali intelligence service, Abdisalam Guled, has himself spoken to about 500 families who have lost contact with their sons. The conversations have taken place directly or through Whatsapp groups where the families have shared their stories.

– I was the very first to talk about this publicly in Somalia. As a result, a number of parents made contact. Today I consider myself a whistleblower, and try as best I can to find out what has happened. I try to be the relatives’ spokesperson, says the former intelligence chief to Bistandsaktuelt.

16-year-olds forcibly recruited

Abdisalam Guled says that most young people left their families between March 2019 and June 2020. Many came from universities or graduated from high school.

The youngest were around 16 years old. He estimates that more than 10,000 have been tricked into leaving – with the hope of a profitable job.

It was the Somali intelligence service that was responsible for the recruitment and the false promises. The young people were taken to the airport, but instead of being flown to Qatar, they ended up as forcibly recruited soldiers in training camps inside the dictatorship of Eritrea. There they were refused contact with their families.The Eritrean military was in charge of the training.- Before they left, most were told that they would get well-paid jobs by performing guard duty for a private company in Qatar, ahead of the World Cup in football. Others were told that they would get a job in Turkey. They were sent by plane from Mogadishu and had no idea until they landed in Eritrea. There, they were dressed in Eritrean uniforms and sent on to training camps, says the man who was intelligence deputy in Somalia in the years 2013-2017.Today, he is an independent security policy analyst.

Denied contact with the family

In Somalia, only a few parents have heard from their sons after coming to the Eritrean training camps. The few young boys who have managed to make contact, tell of extremely harsh conditions in the camps – with forced labor, little food, lack of health care and harassment and violence committed by Eritrean soldiers. Some of the Eritrean instructors are themselves prisoners from Eritrean prisons, claim Somali recruits who have managed to return to their home country.A family received a phone call from a son who said that several hundred recruits had been sent to Tigray, and that less than half returned alive. That was the last they heard from their son, says Abdisalam Guled.Another family tells a local online newspaper that the son was approached on a football field and lured with job offers as a guard in Qatar. He had left without saying anything, but called the family from the capital Mogadishu to say goodbye. The hope was to make money that could fund the studies. Then it went on for seven months without them hearing anything, until they suddenly got a call from their son who was in a hospital bed in Eritrea and had borrowed a phone from a doctor. He had been injured during training in the military camp, he said.

Said he was going to Qatar

Abdul, with whom Bistandsaktuelt spoke a few days ago, tells of his cousin “Omar”, a father of two from a town north of Mogadishu, who was recruited by the Somali military and promised a job in Qatar. The phone call took place in March 2019.- When he called me he was still in a camp in Mogadishu, but he refused to say which one. Then he was going on to Qatar for special training a few days later. Somali authorities would arrange everything for him, including a good monthly salary, he said. 

According to Abdul, the cousin has not made a sound since – except about a year ago, when he called his wife.- Then he was in a camp in Eritrea, but gave no further details about the situation. Since then we have not heard anything, and his wife, father and the rest of the family are in despair. They have two small children and are in a difficult financial situation now, he says.Abdul says that they – via local media – have appealed to the authorities to get information about what happened to the cousin, but that they have never received an answer.

Bistandsaktuelt knows their full names, but has chosen to anonymise – for the sake of both the interviewee, the missing cousin and his family. The freelance reporter also wants anonymity – for his own safety.)

Desperate parents demanded answers

The experiences and losses of life, either in acts of war or in the military camps, are only part of the tragedy for the Somali youth. In January this year, the Somali Guardian newspaper published an interview in which an escaped Somali recruit claims that more than 400 Somali recruits have been killed. He tells of clashes between Somalis and Eritreans in which dozens of unarmed recruits have been killed.The fugitive Abdulkadir Abshir, who was trained for six months in early 2020, also claims that thousands of Somali recruits were sent to take part in the Tigray War, under Eritrean command. However, the Somali authorities continue to reject the allegations of war involvement, as they have done since the allegations first surfaced.Hundreds of desperate parents began holding a series of demonstrations in the center of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu last year – demanding to know the truth about the sons they had not heard from. The demonstrations lasted for several months.A series of videos shared on social media and in Somali media show crying mothers and fathers appealing to the authorities to find out where their sons are. 

… then the answer is a bullet

Hussein Warsame told Reuters that his son, 21-year-old Saddam, had been promised a guard job in Qatar in October 2019. Then they heard nothing more from him, until he called from Eritrea a little over a year later.- We were all shocked when we landed in Eritrea. We thought we would be flown to Qatar, he quoted from the conversation with his son.His son Saddam also complained about the conditions in the camps.- Father, there is no life here, I have not seen food except a shell or slice of bread since I left Somalia in 2019, and when recruits protest or refuse to follow orders, the answer is a bullet, the son had told him.- Both my sons were recruited and have disappeared, says another desperate man in an online video clip.- We appealed and appealed to the authorities – to the police, to the military, to the intelligence service, to the government – but everyone has denied that they knew anything about the boys’ fate, says Abdisalam Guled.Still today – over two years after the first youths were sent to Eritrea – many parents are waiting for answers about what happened to them. Guled estimates that there are several thousand parents.

A secret war pact?

The story of the forcibly recruited young boys and the desperate cries of the families to find out the truth also sheds new light on aspects of the prelude to the bloody war in northern Ethiopia – and a secret military alliance between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia.Several Central African horn analysts have suggested that a military pact between the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea existed long before the outbreak of the Tigray War, and at one point Somalia was involved.The New York Times reported on December 15 last year that Ethiopian and Eritrean leaders Abiy Ahmed and Isaias Afwerki had already been planning the war in Tigray for months – long before the war actually broke out. Among other things, military transport planes had traveled between Addis Ababa and Asmara, while Eritrea played an important role in training soldiers from the Ethiopian region of Amhara – to fight against Tigray forces. Eritrea, a tough dictatorship with minimal opportunities for critical scrutiny, probably had a similar role in training Somali youths to become combat-ready soldiers, according to the former intelligence chief.

Was contacted by Ethiopian officer

Ex-intelligence deputy Abdisalam Guled first became aware of the missing young boys in January last year, when he was contacted by a former acquaintance of the Ethiopian military leadership. The officer himself had been at the front in Tigray and seen the Somali youths, in Eritrean uniforms.Abdisalam Guled has since spoken to several Somali youths who have managed to escape from the camps in Eritrea. In total, he believes there are more than 35 who have escaped – from camps along the Eritrean coast towards the Red Sea.On the other hand, no one has so far managed to escape from camps around the town of Badme on the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia. This is where the task force for the Tigray war has been located, he claims.The recruits who have managed to escape have mainly fled on foot, from the coastal training camps in Eritrea via the regions of Afar and Somali in Ethiopia – before returning to Somalia. The stories they have told him and local journalists are reminiscent of what the fugitive Abdulkadir has told the public. Violence, harassment, communication bans, lousy food, illness and lack of medicine are some key words, according to the ex-intelligence officer.Many parents who have not heard anything from their sons are asking for an answer.- This is so sad. I would have liked to have helped them more than I have managed, says Guled.

Probably 10,000 recruits

The allegations about Somali recruits in Eritrean camps were denied and denied and denied by official sources in Somalia.It was only after the parents’ repeated, lengthy demonstrations and coverage in a number of local media, that the country’s former national security adviser (current foreign minister) Abdi Saed finally admitted that there were Somali soldiers in Eritrea. It happened opposite a local television station. “How many,” the TV journalist asks. “5000”, the security adviser answers. The many allegations that soldiers have been sent into Tigray, however, are still denied from official sources, where it is claimed, among other things, that the allegations are abused by the political opposition.The former deputy head of the Somali intelligence service NISA believes that there are even more Somali recruits in Eritrea, probably over 10,000 – and that many have been killed. He bases this on both information from the Ethiopian side, stories from escaped soldiers and conversations with parents.Somali MPs, who have demanded answers on the matter from the authorities, have also given similar estimates.Guled believes that the training of Somali recruits is part of an element in a tripartite agreement between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, where each country should contribute thousands of soldiers each. The existence of such a co-operation agreement, established in 2018, has been confirmed by the countries, but not that it also includes co-operation in the military field. There is only secrecy.

The intelligence service recruited

On the Somali side, it was Abdisalam Guled’s old employer, the intelligence service, who was responsible for the recruitment, not the Ministry of Defense. They were the ones who collected the recruits, kept them in a closed area and sent them on from the airport in Mogadishu.The secrecy was extensive. The flight from Addis to the Eritrean capital took place without travel documents and passenger lists.”On the day the young people left, even airport employees were prevented from stamping them in or checking their luggage, in stark contrast to the aviation safety rules,” the Somali online newspaper Garowe Online wrote in a revealing article in June last year.- It is striking and strange. No government agency in Somalia states that they have the names of the young men who were recruited and traveled, says Abdisalam Guled.So secret was the program that not even the then Prime Minister, the Norwegian Somali Hassan Ali Khaire, knew about it. President Mohamed Farmaajo and a couple of other advisers and key officials in the intelligence service were the brains behind the secret operation, the Somali online newspaper claims.

Why are they being held back in Eritrea?

The original plan was not to prepare the soldiers for an impending war in Ethiopia, but to deploy them to defeat the opposition in Somalia and secure the president’s power, Garowe Online writes, citing leaked documents and two internal sources.Abdisalam Guled believes the plans were changed along the way as the Eritrean dictator took control of both training and deployment of troops. A number of observers have pointed out that the leaders of the Tigray region and the party leadership of the TPLF have for years been considered the main threat to the dictator’s grip on power – which he has maintained since 1991.There were also Tigray forces that made up a large part of the Ethiopian forces that fought against Eritrea in the years 1998 to 2000.- This is not something I can prove, but centrally located Ethiopian sources have told me that there were over 10,000 from the Somali side in the Tigray war, in Eritrean uniforms and under Eritrean command. I fear that many were killed, says Guled.He also fears that many of the survivors will be detained in Eritrea – precisely so that the truth about what they were involved in in the Tigray war will not be revealed.

Eyewitnesses told of Somali soldiers

Until January 20 this year, no media had interviewed eyewitnesses about Somali soldiers’ participation in the war in Tigray, a region where Ethiopia denies journalists entry.However, the investigative journalist Lucy Kassa, who also regularly reports for Bistandsaktuelt, managed to get in touch with people in six villages in northwestern Tigray, who among other things tell in detail about Somali soldiers’ participation in extensive abuses against civilians in the early stages of the war.The issue of Somalia’s possible participation in the war in northern Ethiopia is extremely controversial in the Somali public. This is partly due to the fact that the training of soldiers in Eritrea and the alleged participation in the war in Tigray were not discussed with the country’s parliament, as required by law.In retrospect, the Somali president’s office has demanded that the Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail, which published Kassa’s article, deny the information. If not, Somalia will sue, according to a letter from the president’s communications chief.A former official in Ethiopia with a background in Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s Prosperity Party confirms to Bistandsaktuelt that thousands of Somali soldiers participated in the Tigray war in the first months of the war.(Bistandsaktuelt has asked the authorities in Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia for a comment on allegations in this article, but so far without the inquiries being answered.)

UN reports

The UN has previously reported on Somali participation in the Ethiopian war, including during the massacres in the holy city of Axum. The UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea first referred to such information in June last year – referring to talks with parents, diplomats and civil society organizations.In October last year, a UN panel in Somalia issued a new report on various political issues in the region and where, among other things, the training of Somali recruits is a topic. In connection with the report, the UN body was denied access to Eritrea to investigate the matter further, and failed to substantiate the allegations about the soldiers’ participation in the Tigray war.The report states, however, that some of the Somali recruits are likely to have played “an opaque role” in the conduct of elections in Somalia in April 2021, a reference to the fact that soldiers are said to have contributed to political pressure. About 450 recruits are said to have returned to Somalia after training in Eritrea, according to information from the authorities.

Timeline:

March 27, 2018: Former intelligence officer, soldier and Oromo politician Abiy Ahmed is elected chairman of the governing coalition EPRDF. The following week, parliament approves Abyi Ahmed as the new prime minister. The change of power marks a break with the TPLF’s long-standing influential role in the country’s politics.

June 21, 2018: Eritrean head of state and dictator Isaias Afwerki accepts Ethiopia’s proposal for peace talks, leading to an agreement.

September 5, 2018: Tripartite meeting between Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia in Asmara ends with a joint closing statement. In the months before, there have been a number of meetings between Abiy and Isaiah Afwerki, including visits to air bases.

March 2019: The first contingent of Somali young boys is dispatched from the airport in Mogadishu. While still believing that they are going to Qatar to work as guards in a private security company, they land in Eritrea’s capital. From there, they are sent to various Eritrean training camps.

October 2019: The Norwegian Nobel Committee announces that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize will go to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

January 27, 2020: A new three-party meeting is held where “safety components” related to the collaboration will be agreed. The goal is, according to the state Ethiopian media company Fana, to “fight and neutralize (…) terrorism, arms and human and drug smuggling”. The agreements on security cooperation are not public.

June 2020: The last contingent of Somali young boys is sent from Mogadishu to Asmara in Eritrea.

November 4, 2020: The war in Tigray breaks out after a long period of tension between the parties.

January – July 2021: Parents hold protests in Mogadishu demanding to know what has happened to their sons.

June 2021: A report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Somalia and Eritrea believes that there is reason to believe that Somali recruits trained in Eritrea were used in the Tigray War.

June 12, 2021: Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble appoints a committee to investigate families’ complaints and allegations that their sons have received military training in Eritrea.

June 26, 2021: The 25-year-old female intelligence agent Ikran Tahlil Farah – with a background as a human rights lawyer – is abducted from her home. The newspaper Garowe Online believes that surveillance photos show that she is included in a Toyota belonging to the intelligence service NISA. The latter later sends out a press release in which they claim that there is reason to believe that it is al-Shabaab who is behind it.

September 2021: In violation of the Constitution, President Farmajo deprives Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble of his executive powers. The decision is made in the wake of a dispute over Roble’s firing of former intelligence chief Fahad Yasin in connection with an investigation into the murder of the female intelligence agent Ikran Tahlil Farah.December 26, 2021: The President and Prime Minister agree on December 26 to bury the hatchet and prepare for presidential elections. The magazine Africa Confidential writes in retrospect that the country was on the brink of civil war.

January 2022: An article in the Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail reports on abuses committed by Somali soldiers in Tigray in the first months of 2021.

February 2022: The committee that was to investigate the case with the Somali recruits has still not submitted its report, and on February 25 there are presidential elections in Somalia. The election campaign is characterized by violence and harsh outcomes between different politicians. Several of the opposition’s presidential candidates are exposed to shelling and other types of attacks by the military.

February 22, 2022

Mere weeks after the January 05, 2022, engagement that took place with Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who commiserated with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki about international sanction against his government, on February 07, 2022, Isais has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Special Presidential Envoy for the Middle East and African countries, Mikhail Bogdanov, who is also Deputy Foreign Minister. There were few details concerning the substance of this Eritrea-Russia meeting, but it was reported that the parties decried “external interferences and illicit sanctions,”. The Eritrean Research Institute for Policy and Strategy (ERIPS) believes these alliances with China and now Russia will not benefit the Eritrean people, countries in the region or American interests.

In an executive order issued in September 2021, President Biden warned of sanctions against parties involved in the fighting in Ethiopia and the Treasury Department has levied sanctions against the Eritrean Defense Forces and the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) stating “Eritrea’s destabilizing presence in Ethiopia is prolonging the conflict, posing a significant obstacle to a cessation of hostilities, and threatening the integrity of the Ethiopian state,”. The Eritrean regime’s attempt to evade the sanctions seems to be taking a sharp turn for the worse.

It is well known that the regime of Isaias Afwerki has consistently sought the friendship and support of authoritarian regimes, such as the Middle Eastern countries to hold onto power and to extend his influence with military adventures in neighboring countries. President Afwerki has now signed a new strategic but uneven relationship with the People’s Republic of China, and is working on one with Russia as well, undoubtedly as leverage to evade the sanctions and to take advantage of the rapidly deteriorating situation in the region where the Eritrean people’s, regional and American national interests are at stake.

With the potential of establishing political and military relationship with Russia, it appears that the Eritrean government is intent on expanding its military adventurism in Tigray and elsewhere in East Africa. This regime is known for instigating conflicts with neighboring countries (Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Yemen) since the early 1990s. The Isaias regime has regularly supported armed opposition groups against governments with disputes, including the militant Islamist al-Shabaab in Somalia, and these wars have led to the unnecessary loss of lives and instability of the region. The addition of heavy Russian weaponry will only exacerbate an already tense relationship between Eritrea and its neighbors. Absent an arms embargo on Eritrea and Ethiopia, the situation will only worsen, incurring an even greater humanitarian crisis and political instability in the region.

As part of Russia’s grand strategy of establishing political, economic, and military relationships with many African nations, Moscow has increased its activities in the African arms market. “Arms sales are a central element of Russia’s foreign policy and are closely controlled by the government to advance economic and strategic objectives. Russian arms sales provide an important source of hard currency, promote Russia’s defense and political relations with other countries, and support important domestic industries,” stated a 2021 report by the Congressional Research Service. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), as of 2020, Russia accounts for 49% of arms imports to Africa. The National Interest magazine also reported that Russia has sold arms to at least twenty-one African states, including such weapons as T-90SA main battle tanks (MBT’s), modernized BMPT-72 Terminator 2 infantry fighting vehicles, Su-34 strike fighters and Su-35 air superiority jets. As of July 2021, Rosoboronexport, the Russian state-tun arms exporting company, had signed over a dozen deals worth billions of dollars for the supply of Russian military products.

According to Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland, through Russian support of Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar with snipers, Mig-29 and Su-24 fighter jets, SA-22 surface-to-air missile, anti-aircraft systems, hundreds of flights delivering military logistics since 2019 and an estimated 1,200 Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group, Russia is managing to carve out a region bordering NATO’s southern flank. This could well be a preview of what is in store for the Greater Horn of Africa through the Eritrea-Russia alliance.

“Libya provides a vignette of how Russia pursues its strategic goals in Africa: expanding geopolitical influence through low-cost ventures that hold economic windfalls for Moscow and President Vladimir Putin’s close associates. In this way, Russia’s strategy in Africa is both opportunistic and calculating. It is opportunistic in that it is willing to take risks and quickly deploy mercenary forces to crisis contexts when the opening presents itself, similar to what Moscow did in Syria. It is calculating in that it aims to expand Russia’s power projection including over strategic chokeholds in the eastern Mediterranean and Suez Canal that could affect NATO force deployments in times of crisis,” stated an article by the George C. Marshall Center.

As ERIPS has stated earlier, it is critical for the U.S. administration and policymakers across the political spectrum to give particular attention to China’s economic, political, and military influence in Africa and particularly to the strategic nations in the Red Sea trade route. Eritrea has two ports: Massawa and Assab. China has a strategy seeking control of ports around the world, and these Red Sea ports are especially critical for the world economy. However, Russian interest in Africa also includes expanding geopolitical influences, weakening global democracies, holding strategic maritime chokeholds, and meeting its dire need for hard currency.

Despite claims to uphold and respect democracy, freedom, justice, and fairness, countries such as China, Russia and Eritrea are among world’s worst human rights violators. Having China and now Russia as strategic partners enables the Afwerki regime to access not only Russia’s voluminous supplies of military hardware and equipment, but also Chinese IT for intelligence and security, military technology, and weaponry. Thus, in ERIPS’ view, these alliances are solely aimed to strengthen the regime’s grip onto power and continue to cause pain and suffering on the Eritrean people. Moreover, these agreements are designed to allow the Eritrean regime to withstand sanctions and carry on with impunity its belligerence in the ongoing Ethiopian civil war that is destabilizing the Horn of Africa.

Eritrean Research Institute for Policy and Strategy

 

On 13 – 14 February the US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa David Satterfield visited Addis Ababa, during which he held talks talks with Ethiopian government, African Union, and United Nations officials, as well as representatives of humanitarian organizations. Satterfield then went on to Sudan and was due to visit Abu Dhabi for discussions related to developments in the Horn of Africa, but had to cut his visit short for what were described as “personal reasons.”

There was no official announcement of what Satterfield achieved during his travels, nor whether he consulted the Tigrayan government, but with the visit out of the way, the Tigrayan President, Debretsion Gebremichael,  appeared on television on 17th February to lay out his government’s minimum conditions for peace.

The background to this is an acknowledgement by Debretsion in a BBC interview that indirect talks were already under way with Prime Minister Abiy’s government.

As Will Ross, the BBC Africa editor put it: “Mr Debretsion suggested that the shuttle diplomacy was having an impact and said there had been signs of improvement after indirect talks with the Ethiopian government. The TPLF chairman told the BBC he wanted a peaceful resolution but added that if necessary they would fight on to protect the rights of the Tigrayans.”

Minimum conditions

Now the Tigray President has laid out the minimum conditions his government would accept for a negotiated end to the war that erupted in November 2020.

He explained that negotiations were necessary, since: “Time is running out. We all have to know that we can’t remain under blockade and siege.” But he went on to assure the Tigrayan public that “the basic demands of the people of Tigray are not negotiable.”

The minimum conditions include:

  • The Tigray Defence Forces will remain intact, retain its weapons and will not be reduced to a policing function.
  • Tigray will retain the regional borders established by the Ethiopian Constitution.
  • The Eritrean army must withdraw from all of Tigray – not just the western areas seized at the start of the war.
  • The future of Tigray will be decided by Tigrayans through a referendum, up to and including self-determination, as guaranteed by the Ethiopian Constitution.
  • The blockade of Tigray must be lifted in all its forms.
  • All those responsible for genocide against Tigrayans must be held to account.

Debretsion said that the Tigray army remained a powerful fighting force and that if negotiations failed, the war would continue. “The peace initiatives [of the US, EU and African Union] came about because we fought for them,” he declared.

If peace failed, and the blockade remained, he warned that Tigray would fight its way out.

“We will pay whatever it takes to break the siege. If it happens peacefully, well and good. If not, we will do it through our struggle and our might. Our readiness should always remain in place. The peace was realized through our might; we will sustain it through our might. If it fails, we will bring about a solution through our might.

News item: the 17 February 2022 Tigray demonstration on the 7 PM radio news in Belgium (prime time)

Source: RTBF radio, 17 February 2021. News item on the Tigray demonstration, at 02’23’’ in this broadcast

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

Diane Burghelle-Vernet, presenter: 40 African leaders are in Brussels to meet their 27 European counterparts.  This Europe-Africa summit must revive relations between the two continents. On the sidelines of this event, in the European Quarter, hundreds of Ethiopians came to shout their anger and dismay. They are from the Tigray province, the scene of a bloody war since 2020 and now the victim of a humanitarian blockade. Here is the report by Nicolas Vandeweyer and Daniel Fontaine.

[soundtrack of the demonstration, slogans against Abiy Ahmed]

Daniel Fontaine: Sanctions against Ethiopia and its Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Nobel Peace Prize 2019, Abiy Ahmed is now accused of war crimes by these Tigrayans, like Walta Kassa.

WK: It's been a year since everything has been blockaded; there is no more humanitarian access, there is no electricity, no water, no internet. As a result, we have no contact with the population to know what is happening there; hospitals are no longer functional, everyone is suffering. This is called genocide.

DF: It would be an organized siege, according to Jan Nyssen, professor of geography at Ghent University.

JN: Everything is cut off. Banks are cut off, the internet is cut off, the phone is cut off. [The Ethiopian regime is] facing a region that is rebelling, and to bring them to their knees they organize a medieval-type siege, they let nothing in, in the hope that the Tigrayans will surrender.

DF: Medical doctor André Crismer has led numerous humanitarian missions in Tigray; he summarizes the message sent to European and African leaders.

AC: First of all, the roads should be opened to allow humanitarian aid to arrive; secondly, the bombing of the civilian population must be stopped; and then a demand for peace negotiations.

DF: No peace negotiations are currently under way between the Addis Ababa authorities and the Tigrayan TPLF.

[soundrack : « We demand justice, we demand peace”]

DBV: "Justice and peace", is what these Ethiopians from Tigray shout. The Europe-Africa summit ends tomorrow Friday.

ORIGINAL FRENCH TRANSCRIPT

Diane Burghelle-Vernet, présentatrice du Journal Parlé: 40 dirigeants Africains sont à Bruxelles pour rencontrer leurs 27 homologues européens. Ce sommet Europe-Afrique doit relancer les relations entre les deux continents. En marge de cet évènement, dans le quartier européen, des centaines d’Ethiopiens sont venus crier leur colère et leur désarroi. Ils sont originaires de la province du Tigray, théatre d’une guerre sanglante depuis 2020 et victime aujourd’hui d’un blocus humanitaire. C’est un reportage de Nicolas Vandeweyer et Daniel Fontaine.

[soundtrack of the demonstration, slogans against Abiy Ahmed]

Daniel Fontaine: Des sanctions contre l’Ethiopie et contre son premier ministre Abiy Ahmed. Prix Nobel de la Paix 2019, Abiy Ahmed est aujourd’hui accusé de crimes de guerre par ces Tigrayens, comme Walta Kassa.

WK : Ca fait une année que tout est bloqué, il n’y a plus d’accès humanitaire, il n’y a plus d’électricité, ni de l’eau, ni internet. Du coup, on n’a aucun contact avec la population pour savoir ce qui se passe là bas ; les hôpitaux ne sont plus fonctionnels, tout le monde est en souffrance. On appelle cela un génocide.

DF : Il s’agirait d’un siège organisé, selon Jan Nyssen, professeur de géographie à l’Université de Gand.

JN : Tout est coupé. Les banques sont coupées, l’internet est coupé, le téléphone est coupé. [Le pouvoir éthiopien est] face à une région qui se rebelle, et pour les mettre à genoux ils organisent un siège de type médiéval, ils ne laissent plus rien entre, dans l’espoir que les Tigrayens se rendent.

DF : Le docteur André Crismer a mené de nombreuses missions humanitaires dans le Tigray ; il résume le message envoyé aux dirigeants européens et africains.

AC : C’est d’abord qu’on ouvre les routes pour permettre à l’aide humanitaire d’arriver ; deuxièmement qu’on arrête de bombarder la population civile ; et alors une demande de négociations pour la paix.

DF : Aucune négociation pour la paix n’est engagé pour le moment entre les autorités d’Addis Abéba et le TPLF tigrayen.

[soundrack : « We demand justice, we demand peace”]

DBV: “Justice et paix” sont venus crier ces Ethiopiens originaires du Tigray. Le sommet Europe-Afrique se termine demain vendredi.

Source: BBC

Ethiopia’s biggest sugar factory, which is located in an area where Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) rebels are active, has been unable to operate for a week because of security concerns.

Ethiopian Sugar Corporation’s spokesman Reta Demeke told the BBC that insecurity in the area meant it was impossible to deliver fuel to the Finchaa factory.

The fuel is needed to run the harvesting machines and other equipment at the factory, which is located in western Ethiopia, about 300km (186 miles) from the capital, Addis Ababa.

Mr Reta said reports that the plant had stopped work because of an attack by rebels was not true.

Bekele Dechasa, the top government official in Horro Guduru zone – where the factory is located – recently told the media that rebels had set tractors and sugar cane on fire. 

There has been no immediate comment from OLA, which is in a formal alliance with Tigrayan rebels in the north. 

Previously residents have accused the group of carrying out killings and bank heists around the sugar plant – allegations the rebels deny. 

Finchaa factory has an annual production capacity of 270,000 tonnes.

“Like the Tigrayan population, an estimated 25,000 Eritrean refugees subsisting in the two remaining UNHCR-supported camps in Tigray – Mai Ayni and Adi Harush – are suffering acutely from the Ethiopian government’s blockade of the region. Food and medicine have run out; relief organizations lack the cash and fuel they need to operate; and UNHCR itself has limited access to the camps.”

By Mike Slotznick, Counsel for The America Team for Displaced Eritreans

February 15, 2022

Summary

Like the Tigrayan population, an estimated 25,000 Eritrean refugees subsisting in the two remaining UNHCR-supported camps in Tigray – Mai Ayni and Adi Harush – are suffering acutely from the Ethiopian government’s blockade of the region. Food and medicine have run out; relief organizations lack the cash and fuel they need to operate; and UNHCR itself has limited access to the camps. In recent weeks, some camp residents have died from hunger, thirst, childbirth and treatable medical conditions. Some have died at the hands of federal forces or vengeful Tigrayan actors. As a consequence, some are fleeing south to new UNHCR facilities in Amhara. But the residents are reported as being held hostage within the camps by indeterminate Tigrayan actors. (Tigrayans are in control of the area). Their immediate evacuation from the two camps is essential.

Background

At the beginning of the war, in late November 2020 and the weeks following, Eritrean forces invaded the two more northerly camps in Tigray for Eritrean refugees, known as Hitsats and Shimelba. UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations fled. Some refugees were killed in the crossfire among warring parties. The Eritrean forces also intentionally killed some of the refugees, and they forced or cajoled thousands of others to return to Eritrea. Their fate there is largely unknown. But observers fear that many were imprisoned or worse; and the conscription of some of the refugees by the Eritrean army – possibly to fight in the Tigray campaign – was reported. Just as shockingly, beginning in late December 2020, Eritrean forces entirely destroyed the two camps. The refugees who had been living there and who had not already fled scattered across Tigray, sought refuge in Mai Ayni and Adi Harush, or migrated to Addis. But occasional abductions by Eritrean forces were occurring in those two southern camps as well, continuing into the spring.

Two other UNHCR-supported camps exist for Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia: in the Afar region, at Berhale and Asayta. In the fall of 2021, after the war had progressed into Afar, reports emerged that the refugees there felt gravely insecure – fearing the fighting, or possibly being targeted by the local Afar population or the invading Tigrayan troops. For some weeks in September and October, UNHCR was unable to access Berhale, and it expressed deep concern for the refugees’ safety.

As for Addis, it was teeming with Eritrean security agents; and they were hunting Eritrean refugees there door to door – kidnapping some to Eritrea – as the Ethiopian government forced others back to Adi Harush. Reports of that abuse seem to have subsided in the summer of 2021. Indeed UNHCR undertook to re-register in Addis some thousands of those who had fled from the camps in Tigray, and thus to provide a semblance of protection for them. But deep feelings of peril continued to haunt the refugees there.

In all – applying a global view – the invasion, repatriation, punishment and destruction visited upon the Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia, as perpetrated by forces from the very country from which they had fled, are seen as legally and morally extraordinary. Those events cemented the reputation of the Eritrean regime as one of the most vicious on the face of the earth. The events also established that the Ethiopian government, which had long protected the refugees, now would not or could not protect them from the Eritrean regime with which it had come to be allied since 2018; and thus that the refugees were simply not safe anywhere in Ethiopia.

But Eritrean forces were not the refugees’ only assailants. Although for many years they had felt tolerated and even welcomed by local Tigrayans in the neighborhoods of the camps there – they now felt Tigrayan wrath as well. Apparently seeking vengeance against even Eritrean refugees for the atrocities that Eritrean forces were committing across Tigray, from November 2020 through the spring of 2021 the refugees in the camps, and those fleeing the camps, suffered episodic killings, rapes and looting at the hands of largely indeterminate Tigrayans.

As a consequence of the refugees’ insecurity, UNHCR undertook to build a new camp for them at Alemwach, Amhara. The camp is still under construction, but several hundred refugees have found their way to the nearby Amhara towns of Dabat and Debark, where UNHCR has been able to provide for them.

Current Conditions in Tigray

As of January 2022, the combined population of Adi Harush and Mai Ayni was estimated at more than 25,000. But at that time reports emerged that the refugees there were suffering at the hands of both federal Ethiopian forces and Tigrayans. Tigrayan forces had retreated from Amhara and Afar and were now defending their home region. They had placed heavy military equipment, possibly cannons and the like, in the immediate camp vicinities, were firing them at federal and allied forces located in nearby Amhara, and were drawing reciprocating fire. Some refugees were killed and injured, including by way of a federal drone attack at Mai Ayni on January 5.

Meanwhile, by virtue of the blockade, the camps were without protection and outside communication; and indeterminate Tigrayans resumed episodic vengeance attacks against the refugees, including by way of killings, rapes and looting.

In addition, camp residents were dying of hunger and thirst – as UNHCR itself discovered, to its shock, upon returning to the camps after a three-week absence in January. Others were reduced to eating leaves to survive, and – through a near-total absence of medicine and medical services – deaths were occurring from malaria and during childbirth. Famished and terrified, some of the refugees have now tried to reach UNHCR protection in Dabat, and (as noted above) some hundreds of those have arrived safely. But others have been attacked by Tigrayans en route, with some of those fleeing having died or disappeared. Yet others have been prevented from fleeing the camps by Tigrayan threats to fine or imprison those who would make the attempt. The motives for that confinement are not apparent, but they may include such elements as using the refugees as human shields, or simply as targets for financial extortion.

Current conditions in Afar

In late January 2022, an organization representing the Eritrean refugees in Afar described the peril in which the refugees were finding themselves, and it urged the United Nations to quickly evacuate them all from the country.

Current conditions in Addis

In February 2022, a report emerged that the Eritrean embassy in Addis, in a menacing manner, had summoned some number of refugees to appear there. At the embassy they were interrogated – including about what they may have told UNHCR about the Eritrean regime – and they concluded that they had been the subjects of surveillance by the regime’s agents.

Current advocacy themes

Advocacy around these issues is mixed, particularly with respect to the refugees still in Tigray. Some voices urge a speed-up of the evacuation to UNHCR protection in Amhara; others urge an evacuation from Ethiopia altogether, whether immediately or in due course. (Even the Ethiopian government’s refugee agency, RRS, has urged their evacuation from Tigray.) Still others – certain refugees within the camps – reportedly maintain that the refugees are safest if they remain there. This last proposition is difficult to fathom, but it might be viewed within the context of several larger phenomena.

First, the global Eritrean diaspora is split as between those who seek to ally with the Tigrayans and who empathize with the Tigrayans’ suffering at the hands of federal, Eritrean and allied forces, versus those who cannot forgive the Tigrayans for the atrocities committed by a relative few of them against the refugees during the course of the war. Second, in the fog of war, one can expect vast realms of misinformation, disinformation, and even, on occasion, desperate individuals betraying their brethren in exchange for their own personal protection.

Conclusion

In the global scheme, elements of the atrocities committed against the Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia may be nearly without recent precedent. The humanitarian blockade of Tigray and the forced starvation there is likewise beyond extreme, and the Eritrean refugees are among the victims. But unlike the Tigrayan population, the refugees are defenseless and have no one to even attempt to protect or provide for them. Advocates for the refugees believe that extraordinary and immediate measures for their protection and sustenance – matching the extraordinary needs and injustices that have befallen them – are thus eminently in order.

The Central Council of the Eritrean People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) on 29 January 2022 held an extraordinary meeting to review and take appropriate measures on the following three issues of central importance at this moment in time: 1. To once more discuss the dangerous  war that was ignited in Tigray and spread to several parts of Ethiopia; 2.to review the efforts of the Eritrean forces for change towards creating a common umbrella and the stage of their progress; and 3. to revisit the role of the EPDP in the two issues and take decisions on the basis of the existing Party positions and policies.

In this extraordinary meeting that lasted for several hours led by Party chairman, Tesfai Woldemichael (Degiga), the Central Council expressed deep concerns about worse consequences if the war is continued. It stressed that things could go out of hand in the entire region if hostilities continue in addition to the destruction so far witnessed in Tigray and other parts of northern Ethiopia as well as the long existing suffering inflicted upon Eritrea’s sons and daughters who were pushed into this war without their own will and decision.

At winding up discussions on the major two agenda times, the EPDP Central Council reached the following conclusions and decisions:

  1. The repressive Eritrean regime, which exported to Ethiopia the heinous crimes it has been inflicting upon the Eritrean people, must always stand condemned for its illegal interferences in the affairs of a neighbor and its criminal acts of igniting war by sharpening the differences between the Tigray region and the Federal authorities in Ethiopia. The tyranny in Eritrea has done this in addition to its unpardonable crime of causing untold suffering and destruction in Tigray. The unholy alliance of the Eritrean dictator with the Ethiopian PM Dr. Abiy Ahmed against the people and regional government of Tigray is irresponsible and extremely harmful to the future relations between the two peoples and has adverse implications to Eritrean sovereignty itself. As such, the EPDP Central Council condemns the unholy alliance with the strongest terms possible. Likewise, having learned that the Eritrean regime is extorting money from Eritreans with the false claim that Tigray is waging war of invasion on Eritrea, the Central Council advised and warned Eritrean nationals not to be accomplices in the regime’s continued war efforts. It stated that it was the Eritrean people who so far paid the heavy price for the war of interference in non-Eritrean affairs and it is now time to our people to defy all excuses and stand opposed to the regime’s war efforts. The meeting also reminds the Eritrean people to direct to world actors their demands for accountability against all those who perpetrated war crimes so that the perpetrators can face justice after their participation is investigated by independent and neutral bodies. The Central Council is of the firm belief that the Eritrean people are themselves victims of their own regime that shall solely be accountable for all crimes it commits in the name of the Eritrean people who had nothing to do with the regime’s criminal acts.
  2. The EPDP is of the conviction that the war started in Tigray and extended to other parts of Ethiopia is basically political with differing constitutional interpretations and cannot be solved with continued armed hostilities. It thus supports the peace initiatives being raised by several actors and urged the warring sides to accept a peaceful settlement of their differences. The CC meeting also called on the international community to respond adequately to the basic humanitarian needs of the Tigrayans and other peoples affected by the war in the region.
  3. The most urgent action required is to release without any further delay the supplies of electric power, water, banking facilities, communication lines and others which were interrupted long ago by the ill-intentions of the aggressive forces. The meeting expressed deep sorrow over the suffering and death of many innocent Tigray people because of lack of food and medical care and asked appropriate action by those concerned to prevent repeating such inhumane and brutal acts in Tigray and other Ethiopian regions.
  4. The CC meeting studied with deep sorrow and concern the criminal acts being perpetrated against Eritrean refugees and the aerial bombardments and related inhumane acts taken against displaced Tigrayans and once again called upon concerned bodies to investigate by independent bodies the criminal acts and grave violations against civilians and bring to accountability all their perpetrators.
  5. Furthermore, the meeting reminded that prisoners of war must be treated according to international conventions and laws and be considered innocent until their cases are reviewed by independent judicial bodies.
  6. The EPDP Central Council noted with measured satisfaction the approach towards finalization of the two-year coordination among sister political forces that are resolved to create a common umbrella. The Council insisted that joint work is not a choice but an obligation for Eritreans opposed to the regime in Eritrea and appealed to all concerned Eritrean forces to redouble their efforts towards finalizing the noble objective of creating one working national umbrella.

The CC extraordinary meeting also discussed about the unsettling political situation in the Sudan. While expressing serious concerns, the Central Council called upon all concerned parties to adopt peaceful means that guarantee the interests of the Sudanese people.

The EPDP Central Council took this opportunity to urge the Eritrean people to continue their struggle with added vigor against the tyrant regime which, on top of their existing bad situation, created new invasions against others to prolong its stay in power. We as a people are nowadays facing a national challenge that can only be resolved by a unified stand of a whole nation and not by one organization or community.  The meeting also once more calls upon its members and committed supporters to work hard as ever before and help promote the objectives and action plans of the EPDP through implementing the policies and decisions of the Party’s Central Council.

We Struggle for Democratic Governance and Progress!

The EPDP Central Council

29 January 2022

JANUARY 31, 2022  ETHIOPIANEWSTIGRAY

“If there is to be serious dialogue between Addis Ababa and Mekele, the Tigrayan leadership will demand the withdrawal of Eritrean forces and Isaias’ removal from discussions over Ethiopia’s future. Abiy will need to concede this. In such a scenario, Isaias will quickly find himself isolated.”

Source: The Conversation

January 30, 2022 7.32am GMT

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki (L) and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed at an event in Ethiopia in 2018. Eduardo Soteras/AFP via Getty Images

The Eritrean military has been involved in the war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region since the conflict broke out in November 2020. Eritrea shares a 1,000 km border with Ethiopia, including with Tigray. It sent thousands of soldiers in support of the Ethiopian federal forces in their operations against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

These actions have both prolonged and worsened the hugely destructive conflict.

Eritrea’s involvement also has wider implications. It represents an attempt by Asmara to reassert itself on the regional stage, following two decades of relative diplomatic isolation.

The large-scale commitment of soldiers – as well as logistical and political support for Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed – is the result of a remarkable turnaround in relations between Asmara and Addis Ababa. After almost two decades of hostility, Abiy struck a peace deal with Eritrea’s Isaias Afwerki in July 2018 . This appeared to usher in a new era of stability and cooperation.

But that’s not what transpired. In the following months, Abiy intensified his programme of political reform in Ethiopia. He consolidated his power at the expense of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. The movement had dominated politics in Ethiopia since 1991.

The front was also Eritrea’s bitterest enemy. There had been a troubled history of relations between it and the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front dating back to the 1970s. This antagonism culminated in a war between Ethiopia and Eritrea between 1998 and 2000.

The outbreak of the war in Tigray served a number of purposes for Isaias. Firstly, it gave him the opportunity to end Eritrea’s long-standing international isolation. It did this by enabling him to exercise influence in a conflict which threatened to completely destabilise the region. This was a deeply worrying prospect to a range of international actors.

Secondly, it reasserted his influence in Ethiopia’s internal affairs.

And lastly it provided an opportunity to seek revenge on the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. The front’s leadership outwitted and outgunned Eritrea militarily in the 1998-2000 war. It also outmanoeuvred Eritrea diplomatically in the years following the conflict.

Eritrea’s opportunistic policy

The government in Asmara has pursued an opportunistic foreign policy. Its aim has essentially been to gain regional superiority at Ethiopia’s expense.

Eritrea has sought to exercise leverage by getting involved in others’ conflicts. For much of the 2000s and 2010s, for instance, Asmara defied the international consensus on Somalia. This consensus was primarily orchestrated by the government in Ethiopia, at the time led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Reaching the consensus involved the creation of a Transitional Federal Government with broad international support.

Ethiopian troops and African Union peacekeepers, supported in the air by the US, launched offensives against al-Shabaab, the Somali Islamist group which Eritrea was accused of supporting.

This led to the 2009 imposition of sanctions on Eritrea. There were also interventions in Darfur and eastern Sudan by the Eritrean government.

Eritrea’s regional policy has largely been influenced by Ethiopia, its much more powerful southerly neighbour. But Ethiopia has represented both an obstacle and an opportunity in the pursuit of regional dominance.

In many respects, the single biggest obstacle facing the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front regime in Asmara is a strong, united Ethiopia. A country capable of dominating the region in economic, military and diplomatic terms – and especially one covertly or overtly hostile to Eritrea itself. This was the case under the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front regime led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

A weakened and disunited Ethiopia – with at least some political actors who are easy to influence – therefore represents an opportunity for Eritrea’s interests. This is because the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front’s vision for the country is as regional gatekeeper and pivot – secure in itself, cohesive and militarily potent.

In search of that status, the best scenario is to have Ethiopia unstable enough to allow opportunities for intervention and influence. Asmara would also want to be able to justify prolonged militarisation, which has become the hallmark of independent Eritrean nationhood. But, it wants to avoid Ethiopia’s total collapse.

Asmara’s best-case scenario is a prolonged, unresolved conflict in Ethiopia in which the presence of Eritrean forces and political support are still required by Addis Ababa.

Abiy’s assent to power and the marginalisation of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front – combined with widespread and growing political protest in the preceding years – presented just such an opportunity.

Risky strategy

But this is a risky strategy.

Isaias has essentially harnessed his cause to that of Abiy. When things were going well against the Tigrayan forces – as in late 2020 and early 2021 – it looked like a justifiable policy, however catastrophic for the civilian population. But it could backfire.

There have been signs that negotiations between the Ethiopian government and Tigrayan leadership may be possible.

If there is to be serious dialogue between Addis Ababa and Mekele, the Tigrayan leadership will demand the withdrawal of Eritrean forces and Isaias’ removal from discussions over Ethiopia’s future. Abiy will need to concede this. In such a scenario, Isaias will quickly find himself isolated. This would take him back to the pariah status he has occupied for most of the last two decades.

Further, in the longer term, an Ethiopia where various parties are reconciled to one another’s legitimacy could once again become a hostile entity on Eritrea’s southern flank.

Involvement in other people’s wars is inherently risky business. The Eritrean People’s Liberation Front regime has frequently played with fire. It has done so domestically and regionally. Yet, to date, it has seemingly defied geopolitical gravity.

But the Eritrean army’s disproportionately violent and inhumane intervention in Ethiopia in pursuit of payback against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and the regional stature Isaias has long craved could result in the most destructive blowback imaginable: a coalescence of Ethiopian antagonists and domestic opposition that presents an existential threat to the Eritrean government itself.

JANUARY 28, 2022  ETHIOPIANEWSTIGRAY

“The leaked document says that the Ethiopian government should talk to TPLF from a position of strength; Without dialogue, the conflict will go on with serious economic repercussions. The document mentions the US desire to remove Eritrean ruler Isaias Afwerki from power. Eritrea is already under sanctions from the US and EU.”

Source: My views on news

A 51-page document of the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry has been leaked. The document outlines a re-engagement strategy to repair fractures ties with the US and Western countries.

After the start of the Tigray conflict in November 2020, Ethiopian relations with the US and western countries deteriorated. EU and US accused Ethiopia of human rights abuses and deliberately blocking aid delivery to Tigray. The Ethiopian government reciprocated by labeling US and others as backers of Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). US removed Ethiopia from AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act) at the start of this year over human rights abuses.

After Tigray forces started their withdrawal from neighboring Amhara and Afar regions last month, Ethiopia-US relations saw an improvement. US President Joe Biden’s telephone conversation with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmad, in the 2nd week of this month, was a clear indication that the two countries wanted to repair their bilateral ties.

The leaked document says that the Ethiopian government should talk to TPLF from a position of strength; Without dialogue, the conflict will go on with serious economic repercussions.

The document mentions the US desire to remove Eritrean ruler Isaias Afwerki from power. Eritrea is already under sanctions from the US and EU.

Sudan and Egypt are untrustworthy, the leaked paper claims. Sudan took advantage of the Tigray conflict and captured the long-standing disputed territory Al Fashaga on the Sudan Ethiopia border. Egypt and Sudan have been threatening Ethiopia against starting the 2nd filling of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). But despite threats, Ethiopia completed the 2nd filling in July last year.

It seems that the Ethiopian government is planning talks to end the Tigray conflict. But before the start of these talks, it wants to weaken Tigray militarily and economically through drone strikes and continuous siege.

Secondly, the government wants to pacify dissenting voices against the dialogue. Last month when the Ethiopian government released a few TPLF leaders, the move was criticized by some Amhara groups/individuals and diaspora members.

Those news outlets, which are critical of the government, have leaked this document. The leakage of the document could be an attempt to put pressure on the Ethiopian government to stop it from starting any dialogue with TPLF.

 
 
From Left: General Bacha and General Hassen

Addis Abeba – President Sahle-Work Zewde has today appointed a total of 16 ambassadors extraordinary and plenipotentiary, and 11 ambassadors to represent Ethiopia to various countries, the President’s Office said in a statement to state media.

Among the list of appointees are General Bacha Debele and General Hassen Ibrahim, two senior army generals of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF), who have become familiar faces following the war in Tigray which started in Nov. 2020.

General Bacha, then Lt. Gen, was reinstated to the army on November 04, the same day the war started, along with then Lt. Gen. Yohannes G/Meskel, & Lt. Gen. Abebaw Tadesse; the later who is now a full General, was subsequently appointed as deputy chief of staff.

As well as the two generals, today’s appointment also included Dr. Seleshi Bekele, former Minister of Water and Irrigation and currently the Chief Negotiator and Advisor on Transboundary Rivers and GERD to the federal republic of Ethiopia. The letter from the Presidents’ said she has appointed the ambassadors to various positions in accordance with Article 71, Sub-Article 3 of the FDRE Constitution.

Accordingly, the following is the full list:

Ambassadors extraordinary and plenipotentiary

1. Tefera Deribew

2. Dessie Dalke

3. Sileshi Bekele (PhD)

4. General Bacha Debelle

5. General Hassen Ibrahim

6. Shitiye Minale (Ms.)

7. Professor Fikadu Beyene

8. Rashad Mohamed

9. Ambassador Jemal Kedir

10. Feysal Aliye

11. Isayas Gota

12. Tsegab Kibebew

13. Tafa Tulu

14. Dr. Genet Teshome

15. Dhaba Dabale

16. Fekadu Beyene

Ambassadors:

1. Asaye Alemayehu

2. Hailay Birhane

3. Awel Wegris

4. Bizunesh Meseret (Ms.)

5. Anteneh Tariku

6. Aklilu Kebede

7. Seid Mohamed

8. Yosef Kassaye

9. Zelalem Birhan

10. Firtuna Dibako (Ms.)

11. Werkalemahu Desta